That’s the luxury portion of the holiday over with. My God. As Lou says: “We have been ruined by the Terra Nostra Garden Hotel“. Five courses for breakfast. Incredible service and attention to detail. The only disappointment was the cozida last night. Mostly we had just incredible complete service from top to bottom, and a snip at the price, for what you get. I’ll definitely book again if I ever come back here.
We reluctantly packed up our stuff from the room, moving on to our first self-catered option.
We stopped briefly at Furnas lake to admire some cold water for a change. There’s a little death-garden for Jose do Canto. He was one of the wealthy botanists whose obsession seeded the diverse flora of these islands. His mausoleum is surrounded by more rare plants but we had no cashmoney to pay the €3 entry so we couldn’t get in. Having just had two nights living inside the most incredible botanical garden it didn’t feel like too much of a loss. We got in the car and began to pick our way east.
It took us a long time to cover a short distance. The roads are perilously winding to the east of the island, and as soon as you leave the main thoroughfare you’re driving on loose rocks. We puttered around the south-east coast and then all the way up the eastern nose of São Miguel. Our eventual destination was going to be the Parque Natural do Ribeira dos Caldeirões. Stops were frequent. You’re never more than ten foot from an incredible view on this island. We had our fair share of vistas. And for the most part, today, the rain held off. In fact, the morning was so bright I picked up a bit of a tan. Afternoon brought clouds again but never stopped the beauty.
We have arrived now in our “cheap option” accommodation for the next two nights. We are in a little house in a valley full of waterfalls. As I write I can hear our local cataract vaulting down the treacherous mountainside. The path to it has completely collapsed with rainfall. This seems to be a frequent issue here, with this living shifting land. Hot water pulsing up from deep underground, and perhaps the earth here really is the peak of the Atlantis mountains, pulled down for hubris before time was recorded. Every night the guests of the Terra Nostra Hotel walk in their hooded grey robes to commune with the heated bloodwater from the depths of the earth. As we walk we look like monks. Who is to say we are not unknowingly recreating some ancient atlantean ritual to Poseidon?
There are no dawn hot springs for us here though. Just a hot bath in a damp room. We have a little stone house, built from the black basalt that is as ubiquitous here as Jersey granite. It has clearly not seen many visitors over the pandemic. It feels like it needs to be lived back to life again. Barely contained mold rinds the walls. The kettle is broken. The clocks are stopped. I daren’t light the fire for fear of filling the place with smoke. A dehumidifier roars in the bedroom until we switch the damn thing off. We are on a volcanic rock in the middle of the Atlantic surrounded by waterfalls. I can’t expect everything to be dry. We will be happy here, plugged in to nature, surrounded by falling water. A different kind of beauty.
We didn’t cook tonight. Many of the villages we drove through to get here are centred around fishing, so we stopped at Restaurante Tronqueira in Nordeste for the grilled fish of the day. We were the only people there, and we were joyfully served Mediterranean Parrotfish – a new eat for me. The waiter insisted they were hauled out of the sea this morning. I’m willing to believe him. It was an incredible meal on a quiet side of the island, and gave us just enough time for me to spank it round the good road to our stone house. They do a road race here in March – much like the sort of thing they do in The Isle of Man. As a result, the perimeter road is a clean fast surface while all the other roads are shit. Just like The Isle of Man.
This place is just off the perimeter road. I’m looking forward to having a new- sightly mouldy – launch point for exploration for the next two days. Then we move again.
Year of the Tiger. Happy New Year. My animal is in ascendance for a year. Hear me roar.